BENEDICT TEMBO, Sinazongwe
TO SATISFY the curiosity of his subjects regarding the benefits of the new road passing through his palace, Chief Sinazongwe convened a tripartite meeting involving the contractor, the local authority and his indunas recently.
Chief Sinazongwe said while Asphalt Roads Zambia (ARZ) is constructing the 10 kilometre road from Mwezya via his palace to the civic centre, some issues had arisen, prompting him to invite the concerned parties to the meeting.
â€œThe meeting is about the contractor [Asphalt Roads Zambia] constructing a new road from Mwezya to Sinazongwe District Council, off the main road which goes to Maamba,â€ he said after a four-hour meeting at his palace.
He said the meeting discussed the method for employing local people and compensation for those affected by the construction of the road.
Chief Sinazongwe said some villagers were giving contractors goats in exchange for jobs.
Some peopleâ€™s houses and fields have been affected by the construction of the road, which will link the district administration to the Sinazongwe-Maamba road.
Maamba is the economic hub of the valley district.
â€œWe want to rectify the mistakes they [contractors] made in the past â€“ employing people through corruption. There is suspicion that people were paying a goat at night to get jobs,â€ Chief Sinazongwe said.
He also called for the urgent resettling of the people who have been displaced by construction works.
The chief said compensation will be given for loss of structures (houses) as well as fields where crops where being grown.
Those whose structures have been affected should be paid K5,000 while for citrus trees, they should negotiate with the affected parties.
Chief Sinazongwe alleged that the contractor (ARZ) had consulted the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock on how much a trees should be compensated for.
He also said corporates operating in his chiefdom should never forget to give the chief what is due to him as he deserves some royalties.
Steffen MÃ¸ller, ARZ contracts manager said his company is upgrading the road to bituminous standard and it has been re-designed.
â€œDue to this, a number of residents have to be relocated. The consultant (Gladstone in association with KAPLUM Associates) have engaged a company to assess the compensation that each affected household is entitled to,â€ Mr MÃ¸ller said.
â€œOnce agreement is reached with the affected households and agreement is made between the client [Ministry of Local Government and Housing] represented by the consultant and the affected household.
There are two different types of compensations that are considered: compensation for relocation of the dwelling and compensation for loss of crops,â€ Mr MÃ¸ller said.
He said the dwelling is compensated on a one-to-one basis, meaning that if the household has 20m2dwelling then they are given a new 20m2 house.
â€œIf there are special requests or requirements, we will try to take those into consideration. There is, for instance, a gentleman who is a wheelchair user and weâ€™ll build a ramp for him for easier access to his new house and the doors will be a bit wider than normal to make it easier for him to get around,â€ Mr MÃ¸ller explained.
He said there are other affected residents with certain handicaps where ARZ will try to build their new houses in a way best suited for them.
â€œObviously, these residents and their families are consulted before construction starts. So, we understand how best we can assist them within the budget. We understand some of the challenges that a handicapped person can face and our staff on the ground is instructed to ensure special care is taken in these circumstances,â€ Mr MÃ¸ller said.
He says: â€œAs for those families who will lose crops they will be compensated for the m2 of crops in accordance with official rates. It is important to point out that these agreements are made between the clientâ€™s representative and the residents – ARZ merely carries out the work following instructions given.â€
â€œWe believe 17 current dwellings are affected by the realignment of the road. However, what the individual compensation is valued at we are not aware of and since this is an agreement between the government and private individuals it would be up to them to disclose the values as we consider these private matters,â€ Mr MÃ¸ller said.
ARZâ€™s understanding is that the affected families â€œare quite happy with the arrangement and are looking forward to moving into to their new houses. It is also important to point out that even though we only have to move a fairly small number of families the whole community benefits from the construction of the roadâ€.
He said ARZâ€™s electrified offices, which cover about 200 m2 and come with toilets, showers and a borehole will be handed over to the local community once the works have been completed and handed over to the client.
â€œOur understanding is the community intends to turn it into a maternity clinic, which I personally find highly commendable,â€ Mr MÃ¸ller said.
On royalties, Mr MÃ¸ller said: â€œWe have been contacted by the Maliko Community Development Trust, which collects royalties on behalf of the chiefdom, and they have asked for a contribution.
â€œThis matter has been handed over to the clientâ€™s representative, the consultant, who will decide on how to deal with it. Once we have a decision from the consultant, we will act accordingly.â€
On employment, ARZ payroll records indicate that the company had 29 from the community employed at the end of March.
The records for April are not in yet.
On allegations of corruption, Mr MÃ¸ller said ARZ is not aware of anyone offering goats to be employed.
â€œHowever, it [is] our policy that we preferably hire locally and we hire based on peopleâ€™s skills and qualifications and, of course, in accordance with current requirements.â€
Mr MÃ¸ller said offering or accepting a kick-back is an offence under ARZâ€™s company disciplinary code and carries summary dismissal.
â€œOur records do not show that anyone has been dismissed for such reasons and we havenâ€™t heard about this allegation before. Our management team is well known by the local council and we are confident that if any such things were going on they would have alerted us to it,â€ Mr MÃ¸ller explained.
The construction of the road from Sinazongwe district administrative centre may inconvenience some local people but it will no doubt change the economic status of the district.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Sinazongwe